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The Thought Clothier by Edgar Wilson Bill Nye

 

General Dado has been sharply criticised—roundly abused, even—for making a claim against the Grant estate for alleged assistance in preparing the “Memoirs” that have added to that estate some half-million of dollars. The Philadelphia Bulletin says:—“There is no mark of contempt so strong that it ought not to be fixed on so shameless and unblushing an ingrate.” And it is this—the man's ingratitude—that most offends. General Grant's unswerving loyalty to Dado, his zeal in giving places to him so long as he had them to give, and in soliciting others to give them when it was no longer in his own power to do so, was an offense in the nostrils of most Americans. His intimacy with Dado was one of the causes of Grant's being in bad odor, as it were, at a certain period of his career; and the present unpleasantness is a part of the penalty for taking such a man into his bosom. The claimant is getting the worst of it, however, and we are tempted to overlook his ingratitude for the sake of the following skit called forth by his appearance as a thinker and clothier of thoughts.— The Critic.

There is something slightly pathetic in the delayed statement that some of General Grant's best thoughts were supplied by General Adam Dado. While it is a great credit to any man to do the meditating, pondering, and word-painting necessary for a book which can attain such a sale as Grant's “Memoirs,” it shows a condition of affairs which every literary man or woman must sadly deplore. Who of us is now safe?

While the warrior, as a warrior, has nothing to do but continue victorious through life, he can not safely write a book for posterity. Literature is at all times more or less hazardous under present copyright regulations, but it becomes doubly so when our estates have to reimburse some silent thinker who thought things for us while amanuensing in our employ. Even though we may have told him not to think thoughts for us, even though we asked him as a special favor to avoid putting his own clothing on our poor, little, shivering, naked facts, there is no law which can prevent his making that claim after we are dead.

And how can a court of law or an intelligent jury judge such a matter? A great man thinks a thought in the presence of two amanuenses, provided I am right in spelling the plural in that way. He thinks a thought, I say, surrounded by those two gentlemen and an improved typewriter. He gives utterance to the thought and dies. One of the amanuensisters then states to the jury that he thought it himself, and that his comrade clothed it. The estate is then asked to pay so much per think for the thoughts and so much at war prices for clothing the ideas. Who is able, unless it be an intelligent jury, to arrive at the truth?

The first question to ask ourselves is this: Was General Grant in the habit of calling in a thinker whenever he wanted anything done in that line? He says distinctly in his letter that he was not. He could not do it. It was impracticable. Supposing in the crash of battle and in the moment of victory your short, hard thinker has his head shot off and it falls in a pumpkin orchard, where there is naturally more or less delay in identifying it, what can you do? Suppose that you were the president of the United States, and your think-supply got snow-bound at Newark in a vestibule train, and congress were waiting for you to veto a bill. You could not think the thought in the first place, and even if you could you would hate to send it to congress until it was properly clothed. I am told that nothing shocks congress so much as the sudden appearance “in its midst” of a naked and new-born thought.

But General Dado has the advantage over General Grant in one respect. He can not be injured much. Otherwise the case is against him. But the matter will be watched with careful interest by literary people generally, and especially by soldiers and magazines with a war history. It is a warning to those who think their thoughts in unguarded moments while stenographers may be near to take them down and claim them afterwards. It is also a warning to people who thoughtlessly expose naked facts in the presence of word-painters and thought-clothiers, who may decorate and outfit these children of the brain and charge it up to the estate.

Is the time coming when general dealers in apparel and gents' furnishing goods for the use of bare facts, and men who attend to the costuming, draping, and swaddling of nude ideas, will compete so closely with each other that, before a think has its eyes fairly open, one of these gentlemen will slap a suit of clothes on it, with a Waterbury watch in each pocket, and have a boy half way to the office with the bill?

 
 
 

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